First Congregational Church
June 9, 2019
Acts 2:1-21 & Romans 8:14-17
"Warm: Definitely. Fuzzy: Well, Sort Of"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I didn’t not actually see or hear this statement - as a whole - but I surely heard the individual words this past week. After da meat raffle, we’ll drive by da slough on the way home and have hot dish with a Grain Belt or Hamm’s for supper, don’tcha know. For those of the non-Minnesota persuasion, the translation of that statement is that ‘after a local bar or VFW has a raffle for real packages of meat - your choice - we’ll drive by the swamp, have a casserole and a beer for dinner, ya know.’
I hope all of you continue to feed and nurture your passions and curiosities, because they surely make life interesting. It’s no secret that one of mine is language: how it’s different, how it’s alike, nuances and generalities. I love that the number five in English is also five in Dutch. The word “can” is the same in Danish, but it’s spelled with a k instead of a c. The Danish word for bread, brød, is not that far from the German brot.
Just for kicks and giggles, I thought a little audience participation might be apropos this particular Sunday. So, when you hear the word Pentecost, what comes first to your mind?
*** (flames of fire, birthday of the church, speaking in languages, wind, Holy Spirit)
Thank you all for your contributions. I wondered if anyone would make the link to the cause for that first day of Pentecost, the festival of Shauvot, celebrated seven weeks and one day after the first Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A quicker reference is the "firstfruits of the wheat harvest.” For purposes of setting mood and atmosphere, it could be like a more spirited version of our Thanksgiving.
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Thank you, Sonya. As for our next passage, the book of Romans is Paul’s dense, monumental masterpiece “letter” written, as Joseph Fitzmyer of the Catholic University of America describes, “to explain the gospel of the justification and salvation of Jew and Greek alike by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, revealing the uprightness and love of God the Father."
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Thank you, Betty. I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes I just have to smile at God’s timing/leading. Of all weeks one could have chosen to fly to Minnesota and back, I picked the one right before Pentecost Sunday. Airports are truly one of the best places to get an idea of what that first Pentecost Sunday may have looked like - people-wise.
Those who live here year-round, we think we have a lot of people when the line in the grocery store is longer than 2 individuals. The line I stood in for the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport security check took a half hour to clear. Even walking down concourses was like driving down an interstate - weaving in and out of the flow, depending on your destination.
And all the variations: in fashion, hair colors, head shapes in absence of hair, facial hair expressions, eyeglass shapes and frames, and all the sorts of shoes! There were fancy people and plain ones, short ones and tall ones, skinny ones and those not so much, stressed people, those in need of a pulse check. And somehow we tend to forget that all sorts of people also means all sorts of smells - appealing and not so much.
Then to imagine a violent wind blowing through such a crowd accompanied by fire, one can only imagine the panic and chaos that would ensue for a modern day Pentecost and security personnel.
Then, as our passage tells us, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” I’m sure that any major airport these days has more languages flowing through them than we can shake a stick at. But, it’s the Holy Spirit part that caught my attention last week.
The passage from Romans reminds us that those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. It is said that we don’t really become adults until both of our parents have died. Even so, we’re not children without a parent as orphans. We have God - who fathers and mothers us. The word Abba translates to Daddy or Papa. It’s the word little kids use for that person they trust to protect them. Watch any child, and it’s obvious that when they know where their parent is, they are more secure and able to live more freely.
In the Acts passage, that wind that blew through? The Greek word is pneuma, which means breath. (I had to laugh when I was thinking about this, because it made me think of the movie, My Big, Fat Greek wedding, where the father of the bride tries to link all language back to Greek words.) The Greek word is pneuma, which is not only means breath, but it means spirit - as in Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit is like breath, then it’s like air, and it’s not just a thing, but is in us and around us and keeps us alive and is a person of the Trinity. And that same Spirit makes us related, like blood makes a person related to parents and siblings, aunts and uncles and grandparents. Even in adopted children or fostered children, there is often a deep and hugely important link to those people who parent them and provide for them.
On top of that spirit-breath connection, we have God’s love and grace connection, which all comes together in a relationship with the larger-than-life God that knows not only the number of hairs on our heads, but loves us so much, that a real person had to be sent to show us that love. Throw in the flames of the spirit that would be symbolically passed on to each of us as members of Christ’s church, we can certainly appreciate the warmth that comes in being part of such a beloved body.
I don’t know if you could call it a warm and fuzzy relationship, however. If we are to share in Christ’s glory, then we will share in his sufferings. We aren’t likely to be crucified on an actual cross, but we will be called upon, from time to time, to stand up to the forces that seek to lure us into temptation, as Christ was tempted to easy street while in the desert. And some of us may be betrayed by one we loved and trusted. And some of us will experience people who will try to twist our words and even our actions into meanings we never intended.
But it is God’s Spirit that will never separate us from God. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. Not sin, not the most horrible awfulness. Not any disbelief, or lack of faith. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not your suffering, even if it feels deserved, which it is not. Not jail cells of isolation, relationship cancers, or any of your failures.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not your anger at God when things stink. Not your questioning if God even exists at all. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not your turning away when that love feels too hot, too confining, too challenging.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not when you feel absolutely nothing of God, for God is not your feelings, which are feeble and fickle.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not disaster, which is not God, or triumph, which is also not God. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. You are in it like the air, like gravity. It is in you, for it is what you are made of. It's for you. On purpose. With delight. Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
Not when children say it is time to hang up the car keys. Not when people make bad decisions and you know it. When life gets too big and other people have to be called in. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Ever. No matter what happens. That is how much God loves you. And it is ever and only as close as this air around us. So let us pray.
God of amazing love and spirit, thank you for such love that is so far beyond us and yet lives in us. Thank you for showing us the depth of that love in the gift of yourself, in Christ. We know that sometimes we forget that you are so near us, in us, and we ask for your forgiveness when our attention fails to include you. Help us in the week ahead, God, to walk through our days with one eye on you, as a parent watches the child in their care, that we not miss those moments of grace and joy. Grow our appreciation - all of us - for the diversity of this world that brings not only a variety of culture, but a depth of connection and relativity that is as precious as your creation of each of us. For each and every blessing in this world, the one that has gone before and the one to come, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.